Northwestern Mutual Seeks 4,500 Financial Reps and Interns-No Experience Required

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Life insurer Northwestern Mutual is looking for a few good salespeople-4,500, in total-to round out its distribution force of interns and financial reps delivering insurance and investment products and services across the country.

And, given the right mix of skills and entrepreneurial spirit, prior insurance experience is not even required, the company stresses, preferring to grow its own expertise at home. That fact, together with some generous benefits, may help to balance one key complaint about the firm-that for salespeople, there is no base salary, and pay is via straight commission and bonuses only.

The Milwaukee-based insurer piggybacked on this month's favorable reports about March employment growth, using the opportunity to announce that the firm is actively seeking to add more than 2,000 financial representatives and 2,500 interns to its field force this year.

What's interesting about the newest job figures is that services businesses are showing more resilience. Last month, the nation's jobless rate fell to a two-year low of 8.8 percent, with private employers driving those gains.

And this time, services businesses grew some too.

,p>Professional and business services, including accountants added 78,000 fulltime and temporary positions, and other financial services businesses expanded payrolls by 6,000, following two straight months of cutbacks.

Northwestern Mutual wants to be part of that upswing at a time when it sees more interest in its insurance and retirement products. "We are at one of those unique points in American history when people recognize the distinct value of financial security," says Steven Mannebach, Northwestern Mutual vice president of agency development.

The company sold more disability, life, and long-term care insurance last year than any time in its history, says Mannebach, with 2010 life insurance premiums up 23 percent, for instance, LTCI premiums increasing 32 percent, and overall policy count up more than nine percent.

It may interest career-seekers to know also that the insurer welcomes career- changers to its employee ranks.

"Northwestern Mutual expects that more than half of its new financial representatives will be professionals who believe that they have reached the ceiling in their current occupation and are looking for an opportunity to grow," the company said in a statement. Some professionals laid off from their previous positions might also find a match here, assuming they have winning character traits and a record of success. The company gladly recruits career changers who have worked as accountants, engineers, lawyers, and marketing professionals.

"We're different from other companies in that 99% of our recruits have had no experience the industry when they come in. We grow them from the ground up," says Mannebach, who cites the company's internship program and college recruiting effort as key sources of talent.

The company's college internship program produces its best financial representatives in terms of client retention and overall productivity, says Mannebach.

The second biggest source is the career changer aged 28 to 32, who wants to advance in his or her career.

No less than 45 percent of the company's managing partners, managing directors and field directors started out as college interns, Mannenbach notes.

The company reimburses its sales force for education needed to obtain ChFC and CLU designations, and financial representatives are automatically enrolled in two Northwestern Mutual-funded retirement plans-including a traditional pension plan-whose values are based on employee production.

As for compensation, a top-quartile producer at the company averages as much as $83,100 in pay including commissions and bonuses in their first year, while the same top producer with 10 years of service averages $372,200 in compensation, says company spokesperson Shawn Rolland.

Executives, directors and analysts worldwide responding to a Fortune Magazine survey, ranked Northwestern Mutual as the "World's Most Admired Company" in the life insurance industry this year, based on scores in seven out of nine key areas, including: financial soundness, quality of products and services; long-term investment; quality of management; social responsibility; people management; and use of corporate assets.

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